Fighting Climate Change: The Role of Women Directors

Yener Altunbash, Leonardo Gumbacorta, Alessio Regitudin, Giulio Velisig 16 June 2022

Given the scale of climate risk, achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 represents an urgent priority. This column examines the connection between female managers in a strong and corporate carbon emissions. It found that since the Paris Agreement in December 2015, more women involved in the decision-making process have reduced their carbon dioxide emissions than companies with a male-dominated organization. The research suggests that gender diversity within organizations could have a significant impact on the fight against climate change.

In recent years, climate change and its effects have been the focus of global policy debate (Weather de Mauro 2021). For sustainable economic growth, reducing greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions is critical to preventing natural disasters. And conservation of biodiversity. Given the scale of climate risk, achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 represents an urgent priority.

A growing body of research is evaluating solutions to mitigate climate change, including carbon pricing (van der Ploeg and Rezai 2018), a combination of public intervention and private sector mitigation strategies (Bolton et al. 2021), and international agreements (Altunbas et al. 2021). Yet at the firm level, the role of corporate governance, and especially the role of gender diversity within firms, is largely neglected.

The relationship between women and the environment

The Gender socialization theory (Chodorow 1978) and Social role theory (Eagly 1987) predicts the positive impact of female decision makers on environmental issues. This is because women are more concerned about the environment than men and more concerned about moral issues in general. In these theories women are characterized by more community-minded and trait-like traits such as empathy, caring, and concern for others. These theories find great support in the empirical literature. Previous research has shown that organizations with more female representation on their boards tend to have administrative quality and disclosure (Adams and Ferreira 2009) that facilitate corporate social responsibility and environmental decisions (Eagly et al. 2003).

We take a different approach and explore the relationship between the percentage of women in management positions and the carbon emissions between firms (Altunbus et al., 2022). Although managers’ decisions constitute a strong approach to environmental issues, the implementation strategy depends on managers. It follows that if female managers are more inclined towards environmental protection than their male counterparts, a firm with more female managers may show greater carbon emissions reduction. A general visual inspection of this relationship indicates that a high percentage of female managers are associated with low levels of carbon emissions, suggesting that female managers may play an important role in reducing farm pollution (Figure 1).

Figure 1 The correlation between strong female directors and carbon emissions

Economic evidence from 1,951 corporate entities listed in 24 industrialized economies during 2009-2019 confirms this relationship. A 1 percentage point increase in the share of female managers in the firm reduced carbon emissions by 0.5%. This effect is also statistically significant when the empirical model is enriched to control institutional differences due to more patriarchal and classified cultures and religions. At the same time, gender diversity at the managerial level has a strong mitigating effect on climate change if women are also well represented outside organizations (such as in political institutions and civil society organizations).

Female manager and CO2 Exit: Comparisons before and after the Paris Agreement

The Conference of the Parties Summit (COP 26) held in Glasgow in November 2021 revised the global agenda of climate change as a result of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Participating countries have agreed to strengthen their commitment to reduce carbon emissions in an effort to keep temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius (the threshold set by scientists in preventing climate disasters).

Figure 2 suggests that prior to the Paris Agreement, carbon emissions for both companies were moving in the same direction, with companies with an upper-middle percentage of female managers and a lower-middle percentage of female managers. However, it shows a greater reduction in carbon emissions levels for those companies, including an above-average percentage of female managers before the Paris Agreement.

Figure 2 The trend of corporate carbon emissions before and after the Paris Agreement

Difference-in-difference estimates, which take into account potential pregnancy issues, confirm a negative and statistically significant relationship between female managers and companies with a larger percentage of carbon emissions. In particular, since the Paris Agreement, companies with an above-average percentage of female managers have reduced their carbon emissions by about 5% compared to companies with a lower-middle percentage. These results indicate important principles. The transmission channels of climate-based policy, such as the Paris Agreement, are expanded by higher female representation in decision-making positions. Therefore, policies that support gender diversity can have a complementary and significant impact on reducing GHG emissions of organizations and tackling climate change.

Author’s Note: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors only. They do not necessarily represent the views of the BIS or the ECB.

References

Adams, Arabic, de Ferreira (2009), “Women in the Boardroom and Their Impact on Governance and Performance”, Journal of Financial Economics 94: 291-309.

Altunbas, Y, D Marques-Ibanez, A Reghezza, C Rodriguez d’Acri, M Spaggiari (2021), “Financing Climate Change: International Agreements and Lending”, VoxEU.org, 21 May.

Altunbas Y, L Gambacorta, A Reghezza, G Velliscig (2022), “Does Gender Diversity in the Workplace Relieve Climate Change?”, CEPR Paper 17159 (also published as BIS Working Paper 977 and ECB Working Paper 2650).

Bolton, P, H Hong, M Kacperczyk, X Vives (2021), “The Flexibility of Financial Management for Natural Disasters”, VoxEU.org, 25 May.

Chodorow, N (1978), Maternal Reproduction: Psychoanalysis and Gender Sociology, Stanford University Press.

Eagly, AH (1987), Gender Differences in Social Behavior: An Explanation of a Social RoleHillsdale.

Eagly, AH, MC Johannesen-Schmidt, ML van Eugen (2003), “Transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership styles: a meta-analysis comparing women and men”, Psychological Bulletin 129: 569-591.

Van der Ploeg, F and A Rezai (2018), “How to deal with climate change deniers: the price of carbon!”, VoxEU.org, 05 January.

Weder di Mauro, B (2021), “Fighting Climate Change: A CEPR Collection”, VoxEU.org, 08 November.

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